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S.Africa's opposition launches campaign ahead of next year vote

© AFP | Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maima kicks off an 'ambitious' election campaign

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - 

South Africa's largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) on Saturday launched its campaign ahead of highly contested elections due next year.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane told several thousands of supporters dressed in the party colour blue at an open space in a poor section of Johannesburg?s CBD, that the campaign "will be our most ambitious election campaign yet".

He took a jibe at the ruling ANC which has governed the country since the dawn of democracy in 1994 saying it had let down South Africans while it allowed corruption to fester.

"Every promise this government has made has turned out to be an empty promise. After two decades of freedom, our people are still no closer to being free.

"The South Africa I see today looks nothing like the vision of the South Africa I saw in 1994. It doesn't look anywhere near and it looks like we are moving away from it."

"What was a dream is fast becoming a nightmare," he told cheering supporters.

He promised to "fix this government, I want to fix South Africa".

"Only one party takes clean, corruption-free government seriously, and that is the DA," he said.

The DA, which has already reduced the ANC?s election majority during the 2016 local government vote, will seek to erode its support further at the general election due between May and August of next year.

Support for the ruling party dipped during the rule of scandal-marred ex-president Jacob Zuma which saw it lose control of the economic hub Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria in municipal polls two years ago.

Zuma's successor Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to fight corruption and is on a drive to tackle soaring unemployment, which currently stands at about 28 percent.

Under its first black leader Maimane, the DA party climbed to 24 percent in the 2016 local vote.

For long it has been considered a middle class white party, but its black membership has grown considerably since Maimane took over in 2015.

The party has faced several crises in recent months including a bruising public spat between the leadership and the mayor of Cape Town Patricia De Lille, controversial tweets by former leader Helen Zille and the breakdown of a coalition partnership.

© 2018 AFP